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France wary of Shevchenko magic

sports Updated: Jun 15, 2012 02:34 IST
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Kept at arm’s length by England, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema will be expected to raise their game when France meet Ukraine on Friday in a match crucial to their Euro 2012 prospects.

Their performances in Monday's 1-1 draw with England were far from catastrophic, but neither the Bayern Munich winger nor the Real Madrid striker were able to pierce the English rearguard.

Instead centre stage was left to Samir Nasri, who rattled home France's 39th-minute equaliser and was subsequently named man of the match.

Considered the only two world-class players at Laurent Blanc’s disposal, Ribery and Benzema have central roles to play in what remains a young and inexperienced squad.

With three goals in three matches, Ribery broke a three-year goal drought in the colours of his national side, while Benzema continued his fine form for Madrid by claiming an excellent brace in the 4-0 rout of Estonia.

However, they found the going tougher against England.

“When you say that Karim Benzema is dropping deep, have you seen him at Real Madrid?” Blanc asked journalists on Tuesday.

“He drops deep all the time. Against a compact defence, you have to try to lose your marker and find space. Karim plays like that habitually.

"It's true that he can play behind the defence because he has the legs, but playing against a compact team like that is not easy for a centre-forward."

Ribery also defended France’s approach in their opening game.

“We tried to play for 90 minutes,” said the 29-year-old.

“We made twice as many passes as them, but there was no air.

Staying alert
The sensation of the first Euro 2012 matchday, Ukraine icon Andrei Shevchenko will now seek to guide his country into the quarter-finals.

And France knows how menacing the 35-year-old can be. “Shevchenko is a great striker,” said France right-back Mathieu Debuchy.

“We’ll have to mark him really closely because he can turn even the slightest opening into a goal. It's going to be hard because the fans will be 100 percent behind them. We'll need to be on the top of our game.”